During the spring and summer of this year I have been working on a garden sketchbook, trying to show our garden through these two seasons using a variety of media from photography to pencil crayon sketching. A few weeks back I had to send my completed sketchbook over to Brooklyn, USA. My sketchbook is part of a worldwide project created by Brooklyn Art Library. My book will be one of 22 000 from around the world and has now with all the others been digitalised for all to see. (sketchbookproject.com/library)
Here are my sketches for you to have a look. My sketchbook was all about two seasons in our garden, spring and summer. I included pencil sketches, watercolours, pencil crayon work, photo montages and collages and others. I hope you enjoy seeing this first selection of them.
In part two I will share more of my sketches from my Sketchbook.
Back with another look at my garden journal, this time looking at my entries for the autumnal month of October. It is mostly about the effects of autumn on our garden but the first two pages are a continuation of looking at finishing off the hard task of reconstructing our wildlife pond.
The set of photos below show our adventures rebuilding the pond. I wrote, “The first day of October continued bright and dry so we carried on sorting out the wildlife pond. The following four days it poured!” The photos show us putting the new liner in place, then putting the water in before the decking goes back in place! Towards the end of filling up Jude had to don her waders to put plants in place. She loves wearing her waders to work in the pond.!
On the opposite page I show the finished product of all this pond rebuilding. I wrote, “Our wildlife pond has been completely rebuilt, the bog garden replanted and new decking boards down.”
Ten photos of the finished pond appeared on that page, as follows.
We move on next to looking at plants for a few pages, beginning with plants of more subtle colouring. I wrote, “In our gardens we tend to centre our minds on bright colours to cheer us up or gentle colours to calm us. But what about the many shades of brown which can look so beautiful in October?”I then shared 11 pictures and wrote, “It is sad when you print these browns that the combination of camera and printer give many extra tints of maroon or purple.”
More unusually coloured plants appear on the next page where I feature succulents which develop richer colours in the cooling weather and [poorer light quality. I wrote, “The colour of many succulents deepen as autumn light glows.” The first couple of photos feature ‘living stones’ or lithops.
Turning over to the next page and we discover one of my fibre tip pen sketches, showing the seed head of a carex grass. I wrote, “The colours of our grasses throughout the garden continue to star, but they are changing. The foliage on some turns a lovely yellow while the seedheads sport oranges, golds, gingers and biscuit colours.”
The penultimate page of my October journal entries is again about changing colours and once again features succulents. This time I feature those that change the colour of their leaf edges. I wrote, “Many succulents begin to show richer colouring on their foliage edges, browns, pinks and reds and in one case white. in some cases the whole plant changes colour.”
The final page for October shows typical autumnal features of our garden. I wrote, “October moments – oh so special! Coloured bark, berries. ferns and grasses.”
So there we have it, my selection of what was going on in our garden in October. As I finished these entries I also finished my sketch book so November will be in a new one.
On a warm bright autumn in mid-November we took advantage of the covid lockdown rule allowing us out for exercise and booked a slot at Attingham Park our local National Trust property.
We really enjoyed the amazing sense of freedom we felt every minute of our wanderings. It felt great to take a few photos again! Here they are! The last few show some knitted animals placed among a shrubbery for the autumn season.
September, the month that is neither summer or autumn is a true one-off special! I always like to think of it as still being in summer, whatever the met office decrees!
I began my September journal entries by writing, “September is the month that we hope will give us an Indian Summer, and this year’s has started looking good with some warm bright days. This means that late summer/early autumn colours look extra special.”
On the next page I wrote, “This month is going to be very much a month for getting jobs done, including repairing our rill that had sprung a leak. So we decided to take it totally apart and start all over again and also did the same to the adjoining raised pond.”
This page also included a photo of our corten steel sculptural “Tree of Life”.
On the page opposite I showed how we also had to repair our large wildlife pond which sprang several serious leaks over the spring and summer. Below the first group of photos I wrote, “The pond before we had to build it following the discovery of leaks. The weather was with us during the last week of September so we made rapid progress.” With the photos on the right hand side of the page I annotated them with the words, “First we had to remove pondside plants where needed and remove the log edging. Next we exposed the liner all around .“
“We then removed the water and sludge keeping several trugs full of each.”
“As I started dismantling the decking Jude cleared the beach of pebbles.”
Over the page I looked at my foliage plant for September and on the opposite page my flowering plant of September, the crocosmias. I wrote, “My foliage plant of the month is the family of begonias grown for the shape, colours and textures of its foliage. We keep our begonias in our greenhouse as few survive outside for long. They look good mixed with our many coleus.”
“Crocosmias must be one of the most cheerful and colourful families of plants we can grow in our gardens. Here at Avocet we grow over 30 different cultivars. They flower for many weeks so really do deserve to be my flowering plant of the month for September!”
On the final two pages I looked at our garden produce and our garden after the rain.
“September is the first of the busy harvesting months and this year in particular it feels really good. Apples, pears, blackberries and tomatoes all keep us busy. It is also the time to make jams and chutneys.”
“After the rain! After a wonderful ‘Indian Summer’ the rains returned with a vengeance. After each storm or shower some plants hold onto raindrops on leaves and flowers and stems.”
The next visit to my garden journal will be all about October.
Opening our own garden along with Vicky, Rosa and Jacob’s next door garden early in July made us one of Shropshire’s first open gardens under the new timed ticket system.
The first Shropshire NGS garden we visited was a little later when we visited Offcot, a garden with a younger gardener/owner than is the norm with NGS gardens.
We arrived at the gate of the garden and were greeted by our friend Ruth, an assistant organiser for the NGS Shropshire. Ruth had assisted at out opening and also sold some of her plants but here at Offcot she was on the gate and serving refreshments too. A warm welcome from Ruth and brightly coloured flowers as we entered the garden both boded well for the visit.
Around the first corner we were stopped dead by this unusual piece of recycled metal sculpture! But from then on it was the planting that we stopped to admire.
We are not fans of annual bedding plants and we don’t like petunias either but we were amazed at the quality of these plants especially those hanging plant collections.
We enjoyed the choice of colours of roses and dahlias, with some unusual shades in evidence.
It always feels good wandering around a garden when longer views catch the eye, especially where borders surround patches of neatly cut grass.
We really enjoyed this visit to a refreshingly good garden and of course the first visit after lockdown to a Shropshire NGS garden.
We visited another NGS garden in Powys as we continued our way through lock down, this time the garden was on the edge of the town of Knighton. Pont Faen was owned and garden by a retired farmer and his wife.
The garden wrapped around the house and had a colourful collection of alstroemeria, several roses, dahlias and many bright coloured patches of rudbeckias.
All these collections of colourful plants were scattered around a garden of lawn and large sweeping borders, which allowed us to see large parts of the garden at the same time.
The gardeners here have a wonderful use of foliage either in clumps of species together such as these hostas or integrated into borders as a foil for the flowering plants.
Another interesting garden visit to help cheer us up while locked down – so enjoyable!
It has been a while since I wrote a fresh post about garden seats because of the long period of lock down and shielding, so it is great to be creating a new one. As usual enjoy looking at the seats and consider what it would be like to rest awhile on them to enjoy the garden and its viewpoints.
The first photo below shows Jude, the Undergardener with our granddaughter Arabella enjoying the seats between two patches of meadow plants. To the right are the same seats with no sitters!
The next four are of seats we found in an NGS garden in Powys our neighbouring county in Wales.
And this set is from another Powys NGS open garden
During lockdown we were also shielding because of my vulnerable status due to a blood condition and COPD so during that time we were unable to meet up with others. Towards the end of that period we were due to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary with friends and family. Sadly this could not happen but we do have a special gift from Jude the Undergardener’s mother, Sheila which has now taken pride of place in one of our sitting areas.
It is a corten steel relief sculpture of a Tree of Life, which looks wonderful against a newly painted brick wall. It features three birds enjoying its branches.
This beautiful silhouette can be seen along a long view down the central path from the .bottom of the garden. Lovely to look at as we walk up the path back towards the house.
When wandering around our garden in mid-August we were surprised by how many crocosmias were flowering even though the earlier varieties such as C. ‘Lucifer’ had already faded and were producing their rather beautifully structured and coloured seed heads which will last for months and provide good cutting material. The gallery below features those crocosmias that we enjoy in our garden through August, September and into October for their flowers and then onwards through winter for their stuctural seedheads.
So I decided to wander around the garden with my camera and take photos of each different one, for you to enjoy as a gallery. As usual click on the first picture and then navigate using the arrows.
After not being able to visit any gardens during the lockdown period, due to government guidelines, it was great when some lifting of the lockdown rules allowed gardens using a timed pre-booked ticket only system to open. The RHS, NT and our very own NGS (Yellow Book Gardens) all made plans to make this safe.
We opened our own garden along with our next door neighbour on the 2nd and 3rd July, which was great success. But we also started visiting our NGS gardens too.
The first of these was Bachie Uchaf a garden not far away in Powys. It felt great to be out enjoying someone else’s garden. Between the car park on a rough part of the farmyard and the house itself we passed some impressive plant combinations which gave us ideas of what we had to look forward to in the main garden.
The garden is set at the head of a valley so afforded impressive views out into the Welsh countryside.
This was a garden divided up into ‘rooms’ but still afforded us long vistas within its quarry bottom setting.
Bachie Uchaf surprised us with its unusual quarry bottom setting but also by the imaginative planting and use of space availability by the gardeners/owners. One final area that impressed us in particular was a steep rock face planted with succulents mostly sedums. Very unusual and cheerful.